The Collector goes up this week and I was lucky enough to get a brief glimpse inside one of those crucial last rehearsals. Directed by Katherine Weight and produced by Mathilde Johnson, the play stars Peter Stanley and Cara Mahoney as an obsessive kidnapper and his imprisoned victim, respectively. As Cara and Peter went through some of the scenes, Katherine and Mathilde explained a little about the processes behind the production
Rehearsals begin with a 30 minute warm-up: stretching, vocal excercises and other activities designed to build energy. In a dialogue-heavy piece with only two actors, it is crucial to seize and maintain the interest of the audience and so there is a clear focus on finding a rhythm and allowing the characterisation of the actors to drive the scenes forward. The brief excerpts I saw were very intense, partly of course because of the subject matter, but largely for the absolute commitment with which lines were delivered.
Both Miranda (Cara; kidnapped) and Clegg (Peter; kidnaps) are from different social groups and so each have separately constructed senses of identity, each holding a conviction in their own rationality. It is this self-justification which motivates their continued belief in the injustice of their situation and makes their interactions all the more engaging. It is also difficult to classify what is right or wrong when the environments in which an individual is brought up seem to dictate the course of their life, with fortuitous circumstance determining one’s prosperity rather than any virtuous intention.
Mathilde’s previous plays (Caligula, Medea) were notable for their distinctive costume design, yet The Collector aims at recreating a naturalistic setting with much of the clothing being provided by the actors. Posters have been put up asking for any information about a missing student, with a disclaimer at the bottom advertising the show. So effective was their design that a number of townspeople were convinced they were legitimate, although the police department had been informed beforehand.
It can be difficult to make the idea of kidnapping seem plausible, to make it into something which could actually happen to you or someone you know. St Andrews is comparatively safe, lacking a wide variety of criminal activity, and yet dangerous obsession can occur in any place where two or more people are present. This is one of the reasons the concept of The Collector is so unnerving – it may depict an extreme but the fundamental motivations behind the actions are recognisable.
Whether or not you’re intrigued by the dark side of humanity, a good story told well is always worth seeing. I saw The Collector later that week. I was not disappointed.
Image by Mathilde Johnsen